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Opinion | Will TRS’ attempt to fan Telangana sentiments pay dividends?

To make the voter insecure, K Chandrashekar Rao cautioned that if the grand alliance came to power, N Chandarababu Naidu would rule Telangana from Amaravati, Andhra Pradesh’s new capital

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A crowd gathered during the roadshow of caretaker Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao's son KT Rama Rao in Vemulawada constituency (Image: Twitter/@KTRTRS)
A crowd gathered during the roadshow of caretaker Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao's son KT Rama Rao in Vemulawada constituency (Image: Twitter/@KTRTRS)

Amar Devulapalli

Is there a silent wave being overlooked or underestimated by most analysts and psephologists that can shock everyone on December 11 — the day the election results to five states will be announced?

As Telangana goes to polls today, the two main political contenders, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and the Prajakutami or Peoples Front [comprising the Congress, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), the Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS) and the Communist Party of India (CPI)] will be keeping a close watch on visible signs of a strong Telangana sentiment.

The TRS, which governed India’s newest state till September 6, was voted to power in 2014 on an overwhelming pro-Telangana sentiment. The idea of self-rule and rebuilding Telangana as propagated by K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR) struck a chord with the people back then and they decided to give him a chance even though the party had no experience of governing a state on its own. Four-and-a-half years later, the TRS is seeking votes for the development projects and unique schemes introduced by them.

However, as the polling date approached, the TRS reverted to its strength — invoking the Telangana sentiment; and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu was its prime target. Over the years, the TRS has successfully project the TDP as an Andhra Pradesh party and Naidu as a traitor of the Telangana cause. In the last days of his whirlwind campaign covering 6-9 public meetings a day, Rao branded the Prajakutami as anti-Telangana.

Watch | Telangana Polls Explained in 3 Minutes

At public meetings, he reminded voters that Naidu as CM of erstwhile Andhra Pradesh had intentionally neglected the Telangana region, and now as Chief Minister Naidu had written 30 letters to the Centre to obstruct irrigation projects in Telangana. To make the voter insecure, Rao also cautioned that if the alliance came to power, Naidu would rule Telangana from Amaravati, Andhra Pradesh’s new capital. At his rallies, Rao stressed that Naidu was from the Rayalaseema region (now part of Andhra Pradesh) and said if the TRS lost, Telangana would be dominated by Andhra Pradesh.

Lagadapati Rajagopal, two-time Congress MP from Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh, feels that this line will not help the TRS. A keen political observer, Rajagopal has been predicting election results accurately for the last decade. He is of the view that the people of Telangana have no ill-feelings against those from Andhra Pradesh as they achieved a separate state. He says though he was vehemently opposed to the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh — in 2014 Rajagopal used pepper spray in Parliament to oppose the AP reorganisation Bill — he has received a warm welcome wherever he toured in Telangana.

This could be good news for the alliance but it has left no stone unturned. All the four parties tried to capture the sentiments of the voters in their own ways. Rally after rally, it was reiterated that if the alliance won, power would rest in Hyderabad, and not with Rahul Gandhi in Delhi or with Naidu in Amaravati. The Congress reminded voters that the party overcame tremendous opposition both from within the party and from other parties to give Telangana statehood. At a rally which Sonia Gandhi addressed in the outskirts of Hyderabad, she started her speech by addressing the people of Telangana as her children.

It is clear that the other allies in the Prajakutami are worried that the TDP could spoil the party, especially after Naidu was on an aggressive tour in and around Hyderabad. Some leaders even did not want Naidu to be a visible presence in the alliance, lest it fanned a strong Telangana sentiment which could work in Rao’s favour.

While the political parties started their campaign in Telangana focusing on development and governance, it soon shifted to fanning regional prejudices. The results will show whether this tactic worked for the TRS.

(Amar Devulapalli is a Hyderabad-based senior journalist. Views are personal)

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First Published on Dec 7, 2018 12:07 pm
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